Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Palling Around With Terrorists

Back in 2008 the McCain campaign made a lot of noise about Barack Obama’s nodding acquaintance with William Ayers, a college professor, anti-war activist, and co-founder of the Weather Underground (a name now used — with ironic intent, I’m sure — by a very good on-line weather forecasting service).  The campaign’s mouthpiece accused Sen. Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”  This caused twitterpation among the Very Serious People who were concerned that the candidate might be associated with unsavory people who had been active in illegal activities forty years before.

Like most campaign memes, the concern about Mr. Ayers and his association with the candidate proved to be about as long-lasting and tenuous as the connection itself, and the people who really cared about it moved on to more important issues such as the missing birth certificate and Mr. Obama’s secret gay Muslim lifestyle.

Stories like that, though, tend to make us indifferent to candidates who do associate themselves with truly unsavory and possibly dangerous people.  For example, Rachel Maddow noted last night that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has received the enthusiastic endorsement of Troy Newman, an anti-abortion activist who co-authored a book that speaks approvingly of the murder of doctors who perform abortions.

Mr. Cruz has embraced the endorsement of this man who openly advocates first degree murder, and so far his campaign hasn’t shied away from seeking out like-minded individuals such as Kevin Swanson, who preaches that gay people should be put to death.

The question now before us is why hasn’t Mr. Cruz received the same kind of attention for palling around with people who are, to this day, actively promoting murder and execution as compared to the furor that was raised when it was revealed that Mr. Obama once shook hands with a man whose last days of anti-war activity took place before the Beatles broke up?

Someone ought to look into that.

Not In A Vacuum

Is it just a coincidence that white supremacists showed up at a Black Lives Matter encampment in Minneapolis looking for trouble in the same news cycle that the leading Republican candidate told several large crowds and the news media that a Black Lives Matter protester “deserved to be roughed up”?

I am sure Mr. Trump will say that he had nothing to do with the shooting in Minneapolis — either the one by the neo-Nazis or the one by the police that started the demonstration.  In fact, he and his supporters probably think that they’re the ones who are the victims here because none if this would have happened if those uppity protesters knew their place.

This kind of thing does not happen in a vacuum.  Mr. Trump started it; he can end it.  But that would mean ending his campaign, so it’s not going to happen on his part.  That leaves it to the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

“Thinking Something Differently”

Sharp as a tack:

Hours after Ben Carson told reporters he remembers seeing American Muslims celebrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, his campaign said the GOP presidential candidate was “thinking something differently” and does not remember such reaction in the U.S.

“Dr. Carson does not stand by the statements that were reported today. He was hearing and thinking something differently at the the time,” Carson communications director Doug Watts said in a statement on Monday. “He does, however, recall and had his mind focused on the celebrations in the Middle East. He is not suggesting that American Muslims were in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the twin towers.”

Watts added that Carson apologizes to “anybody offended by that.”

Earlier in the day, Carson said that he, like fellow GOP candidate Donald Trump has claimed, has seen “newsreels” of American Muslims celebrating the attack in New Jersey.

Trump raised eyebrows this weekend when he said he saw “thousands” of people cheering as the twin towers fell on September 11th.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is sticking to his story and demanding an apology from anyone who says he didn’t see the non-existent video.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trumping Trump

Donald Trump got a lot of attention last week for saying that we should shut down mosques in America, but he was trumped, so to speak, by Marco Rubio.

“It’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site — any place where radicals are being inspired,” Rubio said on Fox News’ The Kelly File on Thursday night when asked if he agreed with Trump. “The bigger problem we have is our inability to find out where these places are, because we’ve crippled our intelligence programs, both through unauthorized disclosures by a traitor, in Edward Snowden, or by some of the things this president has put in place with the support even of some from my own party to diminish our intelligence capabilities.”

“So whatever facility is being used — it’s not just a mosque — any facility that’s being used to radicalize and inspire attacks against the United States, should be a place that we look at,” he continued.

Donald Trump is a sadist and a fascist, but he’s leading in the polls so Marco Rubio, who never had an original idea but knows who to steal from, comes along.  So we’ve come to this, and this is now what passes for “reasonable” rhetoric from the candidate who is supposed to be the one who isn’t as wild-eyed bat-shit crazy as some of the others.  Just toss out the Constitution and lump all the people who worship at a particular place into one group.  That, we have been told, will solve the problem and put an end to radicalization.

In the real world, just the opposite will happen.  Persecuting Muslims and their allies will only radicalize more of them, as we’ve seen in Iran, Iraq and Syria and anywhere else in the last 100 years where we’ve tried to bend them to our way.  And it’s not just Muslims; it’s a lot of places where we decided that we know best and who can resist the siren call of capitalism, McDonald’s, and Jesus?

Good Riddance

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) lost his bid for governor of Louisiana by double digits in a run-off on Saturday to Democrat John Bel Edwards.  Sen. Vitter has announced that he will not run for re-election to the Senate.

The senator’s years-old prostitution scandal and difficult relationships with several Republicans in the state proved to be too much to overcome. Vitter has had “high negatives” in political polling for years — meaning many voters have an unfavorable view of him — but that hadn’t kept him from winning campaigns — until now.

After winning re-election to his Senate seat in 2010, Vitter had been regarded nationally as one of those rare politicians able to survive an embarrassing sex scandal. But Louisiana voters apparently care more about the personal history of the next governor than a member of Congress. His connection to prostitution dampened enthusiasm for him, particularly among Christian conservatives, once his most ardent supporters.

Gov.-elect Edwards is a bit of a maverick in terms of being a Democrat.  He’s pro-life and pro-guns, almost a requirement to be a politician in the South, but unlike the Republicans, the Democrats allow for diversity, if not for the sake of it but for the reality of that’s what it takes to get elected in a state like Louisiana.

Edwards may have to govern in a bipartisan manner, not just by choice. The governor-elect has a serious budget crisis on his hands, and will need a two-thirds vote of the GOP-controlled Legislature for many of his proposals to fix Louisiana’s finances.

“I think that the Legislature and executive branch should cooperate fully,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, who is likely to remain atop the state senate in 2016.

But not everyone is excited to see Edwards head up the executive office. The Democrat makes many of the state’s leading business groups nervous. Edwards has not been supportive of the school choice movement, including charter schools and the state voucher program. Business leaders also believe he is more inclined to roll back their tax credits and incentive programs to fix the state’s budget problems than a Republican would be.

It’s not going to be easy for him, and one Democrat in the Deep South doesn’t mean a renaissance for the party, but at least the loathsome creature Vitter is gone and that’s good enough for now.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Really Not Ready

If you think Marco Rubio deserves serious consideration as both a presidential candidate and a deep thinker on foreign policy and how to deal with “radical Islam,” read this take by Josh Marshall.

Bottom line: Rubio’s not really ready for prime time. And beyond that, even though it can sometimes be a bit trying to hear people avoid using the adjective which obviously is the common denominator with all violent jihadists, it’s a caution and wisdom that is worth employing. When it comes to statecraft and hearts and minds, our words are not just there to make us feel good or increase our self-esteem. They are tools to communicate, persuade and ultimately get results that we want and need.

There’s a big difference between being serious and being clever, and I don’t think he knows that.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Prior Engagement

If you’re a U.S. senator, what’s more important: being briefed on security issues that might have an important bearing on the country’s safety, or raising money for your presidential campaign.

Trick question!

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee went behind closed doors for a briefing titled, “The Aftermath of Paris: America’s Role.” But Sen. Marco Rubio was not there. The Florida Republican is on his way to California for fundraising.

The absence illustrates how Rubio is not just missing floor votes but also key hearings on national security and foreign policy — issues he has presented as chief credentials of his presidential campaign.

I’m sure he will tell us that he doesn’t need to be in the room to get all the information he needs from the briefing — there’s gotta be a Power Point on it — and if you had the chance to take off for Newport Beach, what would you do?

Prove It How?

Jeb Bush doubles down on his refugee position.

Jeb Bush on Tuesday dug in further on his position that the United States should prioritize bringing in Christians from among the refugees of the Syrian civil war — and he insisted that people can even prove that they’re Christians.

“Well you’re a Christian,” Bush started off saying to reporters. “You can prove you’re a Christian. It’s—”

“How?” a reporter asked.

Bush gave a shrug: “I think you can prove it — if you can’t prove it then, you know, you err on the side of caution.”

As digby — and a bunch of other people — have noted, history is filled with examples of both Christians as terrorists and attempts to make people into Christians or suffer the consequences; think Torquemada.

I see this as further proof that Jeb really doesn’t want to be president and is doing his best to undermine his chances… as if he needed any help in the first place.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Three Little Words

This is your occasional reminder that when you vote for a president, you’re also voting for the person who will select the next person to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And with people like this on the Court, it’s even more important to remember that.

“What minorities deserve protection?” he said rhetorically. “What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities?”

“What about pederasts?” he asked. “What about child abusers?”

“This is a deserving minority,” he went on, jokingly. “Nobody loves them.”

While I’d never wish harm to anyone, in the case of this little troll the vacancy can’t come soon enough.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fear Itself

The Paris attacks and the unfounded rumors that Syrian refugees might be responsible for it have turned the usual suspects who know nothing about the actual nationality of the bombers and less about what to do about them into foreign policy experts and military strategists… at least as far as getting in front of a microphone is concerned and making noise.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta took an unusually blunt approach Monday in questioning President Barack Obama about why the United States has not destroyed the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS.

“A lot of Americans have this frustration that they see the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS,” Acosta said. “I guess the question is, and if you’ll forgive the language, but why can’t we take out these bastards?”

Obama, who was speaking in Antalya, Turkey, at the G-20 summit, responded that he had “just spent the last three questions answering that very question.”

And because “Call of Duty” is a video game, not foreign policy.

Earlier Monday, Obama had defended the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State, which has largely focused on airstrikes, amid calls for deploying a large number of ground troops in response to the Paris terrorist attacks. Obama said a ground invasion would be a “mistake” because it would require using U.S. troops to occupy Iraqi and Syrian cities indefinitely.

Obama also said he respected the debate over what to do against the Islamic State, but “if folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan.”

“If they think somehow their advisers are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them,” Obama said. “And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect the people in the region who are getting killed and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.”

The situation got even stupider if not more xenophobic when a group of state governors — mostly Republican — announced that they would not allow Syrian refugees to be settled in their states.

More than half a dozen state governors have come out against President Obama’s plans to relocate several thousand Syrian refugees within the United States. Some have pledged to actively resist settlement of these refugees. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), for example, signed a letter to Obama that begins “as governor of Texas, I write to inform you that the State of Texas will not accept any refugees from Syria in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Paris.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order instructing all “departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana” to “utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana while this Order is in effect.”

The problem for Jindal, Abbott and the other governors opposed to admitting refugees, however, is that there is no lawful means that permits a state government to dictate immigration policy to the president in this way. As the Supreme Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as this one.

Just in case there is any doubt, President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president may admit refugees who face “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” into the United States, and the president’s power to do so is particularly robust if they determine that an “unforeseen emergency refugee situation” such as the Syrian refugee crisis exists.

Blaming the Syrian refugees for the bombing in Paris is not only wrong based on the facts, it reminds those of us with a knowledge of history of another shameful chapter in our recent past where those fleeing religious persecution were turned away.

The MS St. Louis was a German ocean liner most notable for a single voyage in 1939, in which her captain, Gustav Schröder, tried to find homes for 908 Jewish refugees from Germany, after they were denied entry to Cuba, the United States and Canada, until finally accepted in various European countries, which were later engulfed in World War II. Historians have estimated that, after their return to Europe, approximately a quarter of the ship’s passengers died in concentration camps. The event was the subject of a 1974 book, Voyage of the Damned, by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts. It was adapted for a 1976 American film of the same title.

Those governors — including Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) who apparently won’t accept any Syrians unless they’re Cubans — aren’t afraid of the unlikely possibility that among them might be a sleeper agent of ISIS; they’re afraid of showing compassion to people who aren’t like them.  (Jeb Bush said he was fine with admitting Syrian refugees as long as they were Christians.  Oh, how noble.)  How can they run for president or some cabinet post in the Cruz administration if they can’t prove they are both butch and bed-wetters?

This is exactly what ISIS wants: for America and the West to close its borders to those fleeing their caliphate and to prove that non-Muslims hate all Muslims and intend to launch the Crusades again.  So far at least a goodly number of useful idiots in Congress and various statehouses are falling in line with them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

He’s Mad As Hell

Via the Washington Post, Donald Trump finally shows his real self.

FORT DODGE, Iowa — For an hour and 35 minutes, Republican front-runner Donald Trump vented about everything that’s wrong with this country and this election.

He said he would “bomb the s—” out of areas controlled by the Islamic State that are rich with oil and claimed to know more about the terrorist group than U.S. military generals. He ranted about how everyone else is wrong on illegal immigration and how even the “geniuses at Harvard” have now backed his way of thinking. He accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of playing the “woman’s card,” and said Marco Rubio is “weak like a baby.” He signed a book for an audience member and then threw it off the stage. He forgot to take questions like he promised. And he spent more than 10 minutes angrily attacking his chief rival, Ben Carson, at one point calling him “pathological, damaged.”

Gone was the candidate’s recent bout of composure and control on the campaign trail. As Trump ranted on and on, campaign staffers with microphones who were supposed to take questions from the audience instead took a seat, trying to cheer their boss here and there. The audience laughed at times and clapped for many of Trump’s sharp insults. But an hour and 20 minutes into the speech, people who were standing on risers on the stage behind Trump sat down. The applause came less often and less loud. As Trump skewered Carson in deeply personal language, a sense of discomfort settled on the crowd of roughly 1,500. Several people shook their heads or whispered to their neighbors.

Carson wrote in his autobiography that as a young man he had a “pathological temper” that caused him to violently attack others — going after his mother with a hammer and trying to stab a friend, only to have the blade stopped and broken by the friend’s belt buckle. In recent days, those accounts have come under scrutiny, and Carson has had to clarify or correct some of the details.

Trump said he doesn’t believe Carson is telling the truth and questioned how a belt buckle could stop a blade. He stepped away from the podium and acted out how he imagined such an attack would happen, with his own belt buckle flopping around. He asked if anyone in the audience had a knife to try out his theory. His Secret Service agents, who just joined his detail this week, stood guard.

“Carson is an enigma to me,” Trump said. “He said that he’s ‘pathological’ and that he’s got, basically, pathological disease… I don’t want a person that’s got pathological disease.”

Trump repeatedly said he doesn’t believe there’s any cure for such a disease, and he said he doesn’t believe that Carson was truly changed by divine intervention, as he writes in his book.

“If you’re a child molester — a sick puppy — a child molester, there’s no cure for that,” Trump said. “If you’re a child molester, there’s no cure. They can’t stop you. Pathological? There’s no cure.”

And yet Carson is doing well in the polls, Trump said in disbelief.

“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” Trump said. “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Trump started the speech looking exhausted, his voice hoarse. This was his fourth state in four days. A sense of anger built as Trump listed off everything wrong with the country and everything wrong with his rivals. His voice got louder and stronger, his hands gripping the podium. He would be a unifier, he said, a winner. Then he wondered aloud if he should just move to Iowa and buy a farm.

“I’ve really enjoyed being with you,” Trump said as he drew to a sudden but long awaited end. “It’s sad in many ways because we’re talking about so many negative topics, but in certain ways it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.”

Don’t mince words, Donald; tell us what you really think.

This will probably go down in the books as Mr. Trump’s Howard Beal moment, and I’ll bet he’ll get a big bump in the polls.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Being Philosophical

Marco Rubio got a big round of applause for beating down on philosophy majors in Tuesday night’s “debate.”  It’s not the first time he’s done that; it’s one of his regular stump speech bits.

Since launching his bid for president, Rubio has repeatedly make snarky comments about the value of a philosophy degree. In speeches in March and again in August, he scoffed at the idea that any student would choose to go into debt to obtain a philosophy degree, insinuating that such a degree won’t help a graduate earn enough to pay back that debt.

My dad has a degree in philosophy and he did pretty damn well raising a family.  No, he did not go into the philosophy business, but college degrees aren’t just for establishing a skill set.  They’re for teaching you how to learn and work beyond the rudimentary skills you learn in high school.  In short, it’s meant to teach you how to think.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a welder and make a living at it.  College is where you learn not just skills but putting them to use and improving your life and that of those around you, which is why people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are saying that a college education, be it vocational or in liberal arts, should be available to everyone.  Only a cynic — or a putz — would pander to the base that the only people who want to go to college are pointy-headed liberals in sandals munching free-range granola and reading Immanuel Kant.

(By the way, when I was in grad school for my PhD in theatre, my job the first two years was to be assistant tech director for the university theatre scene shop.  One of the skills I picked up in those years, along with being a skilled carpenter, was welding.  Pretty good at it, too.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Don’t Make A Scene

It’s about to get ugly between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

…Seething with anger and alarmed over Mr. Rubio’s rise, aides to Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, and his allies are privately threatening a wave of scathing attacks on his former protégé in the coming weeks, in a sign of just how anxious they have become about the state of Mr. Bush’s candidacy.

Their looming problem: In trying to undercut Mr. Rubio as unaccomplished and unprepared, Mr. Bush is a flawed messenger. Over the years he has repeatedly, and sometimes lavishly, praised the younger lawmaker, often on camera.

Not only that, have you seen Jeb! when he’s angry?  He comes off like a prep school English master chastising a lowly freshman for using the wrong fork.  Why, he might even raise his voice.  That’s probably one reason he’s staffing this out to people that actually know how to attack someone.

Whether or not the onslaught ever materializes, Mr. Rubio and his team are bracing for it and preparing to counter it by sifting through hours of video footage for instances in which Mr. Bush spoke about Mr. Rubio as an admiring ally, not a political foe.

They are also telegraphing a warning that has already reached many of Mr. Bush’s donors: Such an assault, they argue, would be beneath the dignity of the Bush name. And Mr. Bush should focus on resurrecting his own candidacy, they say, not on trying to tear down Mr. Rubio, who they contend represents the future of the Republican Party.

And the one thing you don’t want to do in public is make a scene.  Oh, how tacky.

Get the popcorn, please.  Oh, and don’t forget the napkins and finger bowls.

Monday, November 9, 2015

This Is What Being a Front Runner Is Like

Dr. Ben Carson is not happy with the media scrutiny that his life story — as told by him — is getting.  West Point scholarship, violent youth, his relationship with a snakeoil company, even his time at Yale, have all come under the microscope.  And it’s all the fault of the “librul mudia.”

Known for his calm demeanor, Carson appeared unusually agitated during the press conference, accusing the press of engaging in a “witch hunt” to tarnish his reputation.

“There is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find a way to tarnish me,” Carson said. “They have been looking through everything. They have been talking to everyone I have ever known and everybody I have ever seen. There has got to be a scandal.”

Now that Carson is neck-and-neck with real estate mogul Donald Trump in both national polls and in several key primary states, details of his personal history have come under the spotlight. The retired pediatric neurosurgeon, who has never held elected office, has leaned heavily on his inspiring life story during the 2016 campaign, but even he concedes that some details are “fictitious.”

This week, he admitted to CNN that he had changed some facts in an often-told story about his attempt to stab a friend at age 14 after the network was unable to corroborate the incident.

This is how it works: Get a ghost writer to cobble together some bits and pieces of your life, string them together with a compelling theme of up from poverty in the Detroit ghetto to go to Yale and become a renowned doctor, and throw in some embellishments that don’t stand up to fact-checking because you never expect people to actually look into them.  Then when they do, blame it on the fact-checkers because they have it in for you because you’re an outsider and won’t give in to The Man.  Right on.

This really works well when you’re pitching your story to the folks who think the media is already biased against conservatives anyway; it’s an oldie but a goodie because it always works.  Pay no attention to the fact that the same technique was used to great effect on Democrats such as Joe Biden’s speeches, Gary Hart’s vacations, and any number of political hopefuls regardless of party.

Maybe the fact that the Republicans try to sell themselves as the ones who are honest and faithful and without sin so it’s always more schadenfreude-inducing when the sanctimonious are shown to be just as imperfect as the rest of us.  Or maybe it’s just because now Dr. Carson is the front runner along with Donald Trump, and unlike the real estate magnate, can’t say “Yeah, it’s all bullshit but people love me anyway.”

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Reading

Base Jumping — Joan Walsh in The Nation on the problems the GOP has beyond the debates.

After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus performed an oddly but aptly named “autopsy” designed to avoid a rerun of that year’s debacle, when freak-show candidates competed in 20 presidential debates, a Senate candidate opined alarmingly about “legitimate rape,” and Romney himself suggested that tightening the screws on illegal immigrants might get them to “self-deport.”

To court Latinos and younger voters, Priebus and his advisers urged Republicans to tackle comprehensive immigration reform and tone down the anti-gay rhetoric. They offered sessions to teach candidates how to talk to and about women. And in February of this year, Priebus boasted of his proudest achievement yet: He had done “exactly what I wanted to do…taking control of the presidential primary debate process,” he told radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Priebus had trimmed the debate schedule from 20 to between nine and 12, and he found those debates friendlier homes. Hewitt and his home base, the right-wing Salem Radio Network, would co-sponsor three debates with CNN, and conservative clubhouse Fox News would have another three. The “liberal” MSNBC, which had sponsored GOP debates in 2008 and 2012, was axed in favor of pro-business CNBC. NBC News got a debate, but it was tethered to National Review, to make sure the candidates saw a friendly face.

Poor Reince Priebus! All of his efforts weren’t enough. His debate wrangling was intended to thwart the candidacy of polarizing outsiders who have little chance of winning a general election. But how can you depict your party as the victim of a hostile takeover by figures like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, when together they’re supported by a solid majority of Republican voters in virtually every poll?

Meanwhile, the candidates have revolted. After the October 28 CNBC debate, representatives from the warring Republican campaigns got together to wrest control away from the RNC. But the fracas only highlights the GOP’s fundamental problem.

More than 50 years after GOP leaders began their cynical tilt toward angry white voters, the party is reaping what it has sown: a base that’s consumed by fury, not just at Democrats but at Republicans who have made and broken promises over and over again.

From 2009 on, the party’s leaders have either peddled or tolerated the notion that Barack Obama is an illegitimate president who wasn’t born in the United States—and now Trump, the 2012 birther-in-chief, has been leading the pack most of this cycle. GOP leaders promised to repeal Obamacare, take the debt ceiling hostage to force budget cuts, and slash taxes without inflating the deficit. They accomplished none of this. Now they wonder why their base is so enraged.

Like Priebus, the two leading establishment candidates in the race—Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio—at least recognize that the party’s reliance on aging white voters will eventually doom it to demographic extinction, especially in national elections. They just haven’t had the fortitude to do anything about it. Bush, for example, has said that the next Republican nominee would have to defy the GOP’s base at times: “to lose the primary to win the general [election]” is how he put it. Yet in September alone, Bush went from defending his decision to speak Spanish on the campaign trail—“This is a diverse country. We should celebrate that diversity”—to asserting that “we should not have a multicultural society.” Likewise, Rubio joined the so-called Gang of Eight and helped craft a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill that easily passed the Senate. But when the right rebelled, he turned on his own bill and urged the House not to pass it. Still, the party’s anti-immigration base distrusts Rubio, as well it should.

And so, stymied on the policy front, party leaders have tried to tinker with the primary rules, the debate calendar, and now the debate moderators. Trying to head off the candidate revolt, Priebus suspended the NBC-Telemundo debate scheduled for February, though he insisted the debate would go on with National Review and a broadcaster to be named later. Tellingly, Bush representatives insisted on the inclusion of Telemundo, although the immigrant-bashing Trump predictably said no. I was hoping Bush would threaten to walk away if Telemundo was excluded—but no, it was The Donald, the television brand, who told the other candidates “See ya!” and set off to negotiate his own deal with the networks.

All of the wrangling over optics, however, won’t prevent another 2012. The trouble isn’t the debates, or the candidates; it’s the party’s rage-addicted voters. Republicans need some new ones, but given their policies and their determination to kowtow to their base, that’s going to be a long time coming.

The End of the Line — Russell Berman in The Atlantic on the long, slow death of the Keystone XL.

President Obama finally killed the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, waiting until the last drop of suspense had drained from a debate that pitted environmentalists against champions of economic development and domestic oil production.

“The pipeline would not make a meaningful, long-term contribution to our economy,” Obama said. “So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it.”

By the time the president made the announcement with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden standing by his side, the administration’s almost comically-long deliberation over the proposal—some seven years—overshadowed the pipeline itself, which would have stretched nearly 1,200 miles from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Republicans and centrist Democrats long held up Keystone as a job-creator that would be a boon to the nation’s ailing economy, but that argument began to lose steam as the economy strengthened in recent years.

Obama himself had cited studies finding that Keystone would create few permanent jobs, and as if to underscore his dim view of the economic argument, he rejected the project just hours after the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers had created 271,000 jobs in October and that the unemployment rate had dropped to 5 percent, a seven-year low.

On Friday, the president said that Kerry had met with him that morning and told him that the department’s review had concluded that construction of the pipeline “would not serve the national interests of the United States.”

“I agree with that decision,” Obama said. The decision is a blow to Canada, which had lobbied hard for the U.S. to approve the pipeline. The president said Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, had expressed “disappointment” when the two spoke on Friday.

As the State Department proceeded with its long review of the proposal, the president had been gradually signaling his sympathy for the argument of environmentalists, who said the tar-sands pipeline would undermine the legacy of a president committed to combatting climate change. Still, he repeatedly rejected calls to speed up the review process. When Republicans made a Keystone bill their top priority upon winning full control of Congress earlier this year, Obama used his veto pen for just the third time in his presidency. Yet the administration’s delay in deciding on the project became too much even for Hillary Clinton, who announced her opposition in September when she said she could wait for Obama no longer.

In explaining his decision Friday, the president bemoaned that the Keystone had taken on “an overinflated role” in the nation’s politics. “It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter,” he said. “All of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster claimed by others.”

Obama argued that, in effect, the passage of time had showed that the economy could improve without the modest benefits offered by the pipeline. He cited the sterling jobs numbers and the fact that gas prices had dropped significantly in the last year—refuting another early claim by Keystone proponents. Finally, Obama said that approval of the pipeline would undercut a central premise of his administration’s economic agenda—that the U.S. could take aggressive action to combat climate change and protect the environment without sacrificing jobs and growth.

Republicans, of course, were unmoved. “This decision isn’t surprising, but it is sickening,” said the new House speaker, Paul Ryan.

By rejecting this pipeline, the president is rejecting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. He is rejecting our largest trading partner and energy supplier. He is rejecting the will of the American people and a bipartisan majority of the Congress. If the president wants to spend the rest of his time in office catering to special interests, that’s his choice to make. But it’s just wrong.

Earlier this week, TransCanada, the company seeking to build the $8 billion pipeline, asked the State Department to suspend its review of the project. Critics suspected the request was not made because TransCanada was giving up on the pipeline, delaying the decision until after the 2016 presidential election, when a Republican victor might approve it. But the State Department rejected the plea, probably because its decision had already been made.

No Pain, No Gain — Andy Borowitz on the latest Ben Carson non-incident.

DES MOINES (The Borowitz Report)—New reports indicating that Ben Carson might not have actually stabbed anyone during his youth have sent the retired neurosurgeon plummeting in the latest Republican Presidential polls.

Carson supporters, reeling from the news that their candidate’s past might have been devoid of stabbing, have deserted his candidacy in droves, suggesting that Republican voters viewed Carson’s stabbing as a key part of his résumé.

Indeed, a recent University of Minnesota poll showed that a full third of Carson supporters singled out “his stabbing experience” as a top reason for supporting him for the nation’s highest office.

In Iowa, where Carson was the front-runner before the non-stabbing bombshell hit, voters like Carol Foyler, of Des Moines, expressed dismay and disillusionment that the retired doctor might have fabricated his stabbing exploits to make himself more appealing to Republican voters.

“I was on the fence about Ben Carson, but the stabbing thing really won me over,” she said. “Now, I don’t know what to think.”

Doonesbury — Deep denial.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Good Advice

Dr. Ben Carson told interviewers in Miami, where he’s on a book tour to promote his presidential campaign (or is it a presidential campaign to promote a book?), that he doesn’t need to know much as president; that’s what advisers are for.

“Even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said, ‘A multitude of counselors is safety.’ The real question [about candidates] is, after they’re informed and have an opportunity to digest and talk about it, can they make a wise decision? It’s a false narrative that you have to know everything.”

Yes, that plan has worked out so well in recent administrations, hasn’t it?

While he was in Miami, he admitted he wasn’t familiar with the Cuban-American policy known as “Wet Foot – Dry Foot” (is it a new take on the Hokey-Pokey?), and while he was equally unfamiliar with the Obama administration’s plans for restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, he was against them because Obama.

No one expects the president to know everything about everything that comes across the desk, and yes, that’s what advisers are for.  But Dr. Carson doesn’t seem to be of a mind to accept the advice of people who might hold a different or even contrary point of view.  What good is having people who disagree with you as advisers if you ignore what they tell you or dismiss their ideas completely?

This is why Booman thinks the Pyramid story is important.

Does Carson really examine why the archeologists believe that the pyramids were erected as tombs for the pharaohs? Does he have any compelling reason to reject their unanimous opinion on this matter other than his own nifty idea for explaining how Joseph stored all that grain?

So, then, what if Carson gets some neat idea to explain how to deal with the Chinese or the Russians or the Iranians or the North Koreans? Will he stick with that idea even if all the experts tell him that he’s nuts?

It’s not that Carson is a very religious man that should concern us. Even his Biblical literalism is only troubling up to a point. The problem is this juvenile way of coming to strong conclusions and the lazy willingness to put his own pet theories ahead of the conclusions of the Scientific Community.

I seriously doubt that Dr. Carson will ever be president, but the idea that someone so unable to listen to anyone other than his own ideas is polling at the top of his party’s preferences is just downright scary.